Monday, July 24, 2017

Four from the Past

These aren't from my basement, literally, but they're all things I saw recently in antique stores or used book stores.

This is the top of a poster case from an early 20th century theater.

Stylistically, I'd place this point-of-purchase advertisement in maybe the 1950s... but I have to say, I think the damage amount claimed is highly exaggerated. Using 1955 as a year, the equivalent dollar amount in 2016 would be more than $3.6 billion. Does anyone believe that?

This sign caught my attention because Valspar is a Minneapolis company, and the sign was nowhere near Minneapolis when I saw it. But then I noticed the circular illustration in the center. What are those people doing? The smiling, besuited man is either pouring water onto a burning table to put out a fire, or pouring burning oil onto the table. Meanwhile, the chicly dressed woman looks on in chin-touching fascination. What does this have to do with selling paint?

The final photo is a terrible shot. This safe was behind the desk at a used book store. I asked if I could photograph the lettering and they said yes, but I couldn't get close enough to it. So squint your eyes a bit when you look at it to appreciate the 1920s-era lettering. The words, though, are ominous: "Warning! This property is protected by chemical warfare gas."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Racing Out of Their Spaces

I'm in favor of the more active-looking disability icon, but when you see several of them in a row in a parking lot... starts to look like a race. Which is fine, I guess, but a tad distracting. I can get used to it, though.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Negative Space, Positive Logo

Wow, two posts about current logos that I like, seen within a few days of each other. It must be my new, positive outlook on the world affecting my judgment (here's the previous post).

Today's logo is one I saw in a rural hospital. It's not their main logo, but rather one to publicize their request for patient feedback:

I saw the leaf first, then the walking figure in the negative space. The green shades differentiate the parts of the leaf a bit better in person than they do in my photo.

Friday, July 21, 2017

How to Make Six Outets into Three

Today I had one of those modern-age moments. You know how older houses don't have enough outlets for all of our electronics these days, so people plug in power strips to make more outlets?

But who designed these power strips? Have they done any user testing? Here's an example:

This strip has six outlets in it, with a window air conditioning unit plugged in. But because the plug is grounded (of course), and has lots of extra stuff built in, the plug covers up two more of the available outlets than it's using.

And note that even a fourth outlet is unusable by other grounded plugs, because the air conditioner cord sticks out in front of the ground opening.

All the designers of the power strip would have to do is rotate the outlets 180 degrees along the strip, so that plugs with big dongly bits could run off the end instead of covering up the other outlets. But no.

This is the kind of thing that 99 percent of science fiction writers get wrong about the future. It will have just as many stupid details as the past.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Sad But Beautiful Sign

Old motel signs are a favorite of mine. It's a joy to see one that has been maintained and sad to see one that hasn't... yet there's a different kind of beauty in a weathered, half-destroyed sign, too.

This sign is on Brewerton Road in North Syracuse, New York, almost right across the street from Julie's Diner (where I stopped for lunch, upon recommendation from Michael Leddy).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A New Lutheran Social Service Logo

Lutheran Social Services has a new logo. And what do you know, it's a major improvement over their old one!


Boring, if readable, type (Palatino... very desktop-publishing-1987-looking). Colors that seem to evoke the old Norwest Bank identity (it's a Minnesota thing, sorry if it doesn't resonate for you). And that symbol... what is it? Someone playing ultimate frisbee?


The now bolder, sans serif type is still readable (and better for social media and web uses). The colors have a lot more pop. And the designers have made a clever LS interaction that combines to make a heart with a burning flame atop, referring to classic Christian iconography without looking stodgy.

A+ for LSS!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Farms Were Not Always What We Think They Are

Here's an etymology fact you may not have known (I didn't): the noun farm comes from Old French, ferme, "a rent or lease." It originally meant "fixed payment" rather than a place where you grow food. It comes from the Latin word firma, which also meant fixed payment, which itself came from firmare (to fix, settle, strengthen) and firmus (strong, stable).

This English meaning is from the 13th century. (Farm comes from the same root as the noun firm, meaning "business house," which dates from 1744, though it came to its present meaning along a different path.)

According to etymonline, the sense of farm meaning "tract of land" was first recorded in the 14th century, but "cultivated land" didn't come into use until 1520. The verb we all use today (to farm crops) didn't come into use until 1719. There was an earlier verb form that meant to rent or lease, and the current phrase "to farm out" is a remnant of that.

So farm, in its original sense, was all about being in debt to or renting from a land owner; essentially serfdom or tenancy. Serf comes from the Latin word servum or "slave," but it lost that meaning by the 18th century, when it had come to mean the "lowest class of cultivators of the soil in continental European countries."

Farmer, ironically, was originally the person who collected the taxes (14th century). The agricultural sense of farmer became common in the very late 16th century, when it replaced the magnificent word churl. These days, churl is an insult, but its earlier meaning was simply "man of the common people" or "country man."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Which Side Are They on?

I don't have a lot to say on this day when yet another Minnesota cop has shot and killed an unarmed citizen. But I did see this cartoon recently that tied together a few things:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Modern Library

I'm not quite sure what year this cartoon is from... I guess it says ’98 in the signature. It was co-created by Janice and Anthony Peyton Porter of Minneapolis.

Pretty relevant, huh?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Least We Could Do

Jeronimo Yanez may have been found not guilty of manslaughter, even though he shot and killed Philando Castile without reason. But that doesn't mean Yanez is innocent.

I thought we all knew by now that "not guilty" does not equal "innocent." You are not found innocent in a trial. You are found not guilty by a reasonable doubt.

Given that, and the circumstances of Castile's death, our governor, Mark Dayton, has decided to name a newly announced police training fund after Philando Castile. This seems like the best outcome still possible, given that a jury and judge have failed to find justice in this case.

The police unions, of course, immediately denounced the idea, and several letter writers in the newspapers have echoed their point of view. The writers always include the detail that Yanez was "found innocent." No, he wasn't, and he's the poster child for police training in deescalation. Not to mention (in his case) non-escalation in the first place, since he was entirely responsible for everything that led to Castile's killing.

As a child at Castile's school put it:

Naming the fund after Castile is the least we can do. It's more than "nothing" happening. It means his name will be remembered and cops will be reminded how not to act even when they aren't at a training.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Yet Another Association

Over the years, I have noticed the need in our complex society for organizations called associations. Every possible human endeavor, it seems, has an association, no matter how obscure or ridiculous.

In the past, I have noted the National Association for Information Destruction, the Association of North American Directory Publishers, the National Association of Settlement Purchasers, and SMART (the association for Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles).

Today, I found out (thanks to Clay Jones, writing for Science Based Medicine) that there is an Association of Placenta Preparation Arts. The whole article is worth a read (ewww), but the bit about the association was the kicker.

(That they require an association is questionable, of course, but also... what about their misuse of the word "arts"? Wouldn't you think their work would be more of a science? They must think they can get away with their pseudoscience more easily if they call it an art.)

I once had a student who worked for the American Society of Association Executives. So, essentially, that's an association of associations. Which may signal the end of history. We can all go home now.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Signs with/from Impact

Impact Printing, located on Rice Street in St. Paul's North End, is a print shop that spends a lot of its time these days making signs, rather than printing on paper.

It's known as the lowest priced union shop in the area, and therefore makes a lot of political lawn signs. But it looks like they're branching out to make their own originals to sell:

And they've been keeping their equipment busy.